Created in 2012, STS Enterprise is a mentoring program for young Memphis men. But rather than focusing solely on professional development or educational achievement, STS mentors work to help the mentees in all areas of life, from community outreach to public speaking.
The inspiration for the all-volunteer organization is simple: to empower and motivate youth to strive for excellence. And Co-founder Alton Cryer is, as the organzation's title suggests, "Setting the Standard" for excellence. He launched STS with Jeremy Calhoun in 2012 while still a full-time student. His long list of accomplishments reveals his personal quest for excellence, but Cryer wasn't willing to stop at just improving his own life for the better.
Mentoring young African American boys across the city remains the focal point for STS, and Cryer believes all that many young men need is a positive influence in order to confidently become leaders in their communities, start their own businesses and achieve their goals. "It's not programs that change people, it's people that change people," Cryer says. "Everything that we want to do, we want to be great at it. STS is not just an organization, it is a lifestyle."
For STS, mentoring doesn't stop in the classroom. The program actively involves the youth in their own communities. "The mentoring program is our main focus, and through our community outreach we are able to partner with other local organizations and give back to the community," he continues.
STS takes kids on college visits and to attend local events like the Ole Miss spring football game or a Grizzlies game at FedEx Forum. "The reason is to help them expand their minds and not see only what their neighborhoods can show them," he says. "They will see things on a bigger scale."
Being young has never been a barrier for Cryer, 24. In fact, he sees his age as an asset. "Our key element is the fact that we are young, and we use our age as a way to relate to the young people," he says. The eight-person STS volunteer staff consists solely of college students and recent college graduates.
Cryer himself will graduate in August from the University of Memphis with a major in sports and leisure management and a minor in communication, and he plans to seek his master's degree in non-profit administration.
The University of Memphis' entrepreneurship program helped STS pay for its charter and apply for non-profit status, which is in the process of being approved now. In the future Cryer hopes to possibly add a mentoring program for young women.
STS has been involved with Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell Jr.'s annual golf tournament for the past couple of years, and STS also puts on its own volunteer event, called "Bridging the Gap," on the fourth Saturday of every month. "With our monthly event, we are trying to bridge the gap between senior citizens and young people," says Cryer, who works for the City of Memphis' ambassador program and is a graduate of Leadership Memphis.
STS recently teamed up with the Lipscomb & Pitts Breakfast Club to work with Samaritan's Feet. "They wash the feet of young inner city children and put new shoes and socks on their feet," Cryer says.
The newest project for STS is called "Memphis Pride," a community clean-up effort. "We started with the 38114 zip code, and we not only focus on cleaning up the area but also on development. We will plant flowers, cut the grass and get the community involved in doing upkeep on other projects," explains Cryer, a recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from the University of Memphis and the Harold Little Community Service Award from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.
Cryer has also been on the other side of the mentor/mentee relationship. For his own success, he credits mentors who helped him along the way. "I have a group of mentors who stood by me and molded me as a young man," he says. "Now I can help others and guide them on a whole new path."
MICHAEL WADDELL | WEDNESDAY, JUNE 18, 2014